It doesn’t feel like that long ago for Pauler Lam that he was working a 9-to-5 in the corporate world. He found that each day sitting behind his desk ate away at his soul. He was working for a pay check, but it wasn’t what made him happy. Then, five years ago, he decided to take his hobby of dancing, which he spent 16 years training for, and transform it into his full-time career. Immediately, he felt a shift in his outlook on life. He was happy, doing what he truly loved. This joy he feels from dancing is contagious, and those who watch him perform, whether live or on television, feel it too.
With an impressive career working on television commercials, Buzzfeed videos, live performances, and various television shows, Lam has become a sought-after Breakdance and Hip-Hop dancer. Originally from Australia, he has taken the American dance industry by storm, and recently was the principle dancer in two national commercial campaigns: one for Hotel Indigo, and the other for American Crew. In both instances, his talents as a dancer and performer are enthralling, grabbing audiences’ attention around the country.
“I am a very driven person who only does what I know will ultimately make me happy and allow me to bring others joy and in turn, give back to the universe. This for me is dance,” said Lam.
One of Lam’s first breakout professional dance roles in the United States was on the television show Steady Mobbin. The series highlights diverse groups of dancers performing various flash mob styles in major cities, empowering the audience to bring out their inner dancer. The surprise element of the flash mob serves as a reminder that art, in this case dance, is all around us in everyday life.
“I loved that the show was about dance. The dancers were the star of the show, not just in the background. The producers understood how important and amazing dancers are and wanted to put us in the spotlight,” said Lam.
The production on the show began in September 2015. In that first season, Lam was featured in episodes 3, 4, 5 and 6. Each episode took a week to film, including rehearsals. Steady Mobbin premiered on The Dance Network both in the United States and worldwide in February of 2016.
As well as being a principle dancer, Lam was also given a feature in an episode where he was interviewed. He was able to explain his background in dance and provide his back story to the viewers. He also had a solo dance moment where he was able to showcase his breakdancing skills.
“It feels amazing to know that people everywhere are able to see me do what I love. It is great exposure for myself as a performer and entertainer in the dance industry. I truly feel blessed to be able to be a professional dancer and the fact that I can do it for a living and put my work out there for the whole world to see is indescribable,” he said.
When Lam first went to audition, he made an error that he now considers to be his saving grace. At the time, he had misread the audition details and went to the venue a day early. No one was there. and it made him very feel very inexperienced as he was new to the industry in those days. However, his mistake actually helped with his nerves, and when he returned the next day all of the initial fear he felt the day before had vanished; he had time to settle down and laugh at himself. When he came back the next day and auditioned, he impressed the Director, Aaron Mostow, as well as the well-known dancer/choreographer Suze Q (known for dancing with the celebrated pop group The Black Eyed Peas) who was running the auditions. While performing, Lam displayed his vast skill and versatility. It was only a week later when he was booked for lead role in the show.
Quickly noticed during the audition process for his unique ability to perform hip-hop choreography as well as bust out exceptional breakdance moves, Lam was essential in the creation process of each episode. In order for the choreography pieces to have a dynamic and recognizable moment, he was frequently featured doing a flip or a trick for the episode’s “wow moment”, keeping the audience captivated. Usually a Bboy would not do the choreography and stick simply to breakdancing, but Lam was able to do it all and help create flawless pieces and smooth transitions for the choreography, and ultimately, the show’s success.
“Pauler is one of the most skilled and versatile dancers I’ve ever come across. He can do Hip Hop choreography and breakdance. That’s a very rare thing for a Bboy to be able to do choreography too. So, I knew right away after seeing him at the audition that he would be perfect for my show. We featured him on an episode and he absolutely killed it in his solo with his crazy tricks and flips. He was so easy and fun to work with and I would love to work with him again,” said Director Aaron Mostow.
Because the show focused on dance, and everyone involved had dance experience, Lam was eager to be part of this experience as one of the first major projects of his career. While on set, he made sure to stay focused, adapt easily, and be professional. Despite the challenge of having to learn many pieces of choreography in a short time frame, with cameras pointed at him and producers watching, Lam shone in each number. Working on the show truly exposed him to working under pressure, something that is common in the industry, and he quickly learned how to excel under such conditions.
“I am, and will always be, very grateful for this opportunity. The other dancers on the show were really fun to work with. Everyone was happy to be in rehearsal and on shoot days. I made some of my first proper LA friends from this show and am proud to still be good friends with them today. I was able to showcase my skills and versatility as a dancer for the first time in the Los Angeles dance industry. I’ve come a long way since then and will continue to push and grow further as a performer. And a special shout-out to Suze Q, Aaron Mostow and all the other dancers from Steady Mobbin,” said Lam.
Being able to showcase his skill on television earlier on in his career opened many doors for Lam, and he is extremely humbled by the experience. Since being on the show, he has become an in-demand dancer in America, with no plans on slowing down. His journey reaffirms that pursuing his dreams full-time was the right choice, and he has never looked back.
“I know that this is what I am meant to be doing and truly believe that I am in the right place. I will continue to push myself in this industry to achieve all of my dreams and be the best and happiest version of myself that I can be,” he concluded.
While there’s no shortage of female vocalists and performers in the mainstream music scene, a major gender gap definitely exists between men and women working behind the scenes in the music industry with women fulfilling far fewer producer and engineering roles than men.
In a 2014 article published by The FADER, Ruth Saxelby wrote that less than 5% of music producers and engineers are women. While the number of women in the male-dominated industry remains unjustifiably small, there definitely are some talented female music producers making their name known in the scene, even if they’ve had to work a little harder to do it.
Diana D., better known as Lil’ Lyss, is one of the fiercely talented female music producers who’s made her way to the forefront of the industry, and she needs to be on your radar. Holding producing credits on several hit tracks for American rapper Ca$his, over the last few years Lil’ Lyss has become one incredibly sought after music producer, especially in the rap and hip-hop scene.
Originally from Bulgaria, Lil’ Lyss was instantly drawn to music during childhood, but it wasn’t until she heard 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” produced by Dr. Dre as a teenager that she realized she wanted to produce music.
She explains, “That opened my eyes for music. It was so simple and so great at the same time, then I thought I could do this too. I downloaded a bunch of programs and started messing with them and with time I taught myself to sound like I sound now.”
It’s been 14 years since the release of “In Da Club,” and Lil’ Lyss, now 27, has definitely utilized that time wisely. She spent those early years mastering the vast plethora of software necessary to be competitive in modern music and teaching herself the ins and outs of producing; and what she’s accomplished since is nothing short of amazing. Her unique beginning, flawless style and musical genius have definitely made her a rarity in the industry; and her drive to produce new and innovative tracks are what’s kept her ahead of the curve at every turn.
In 2013 Lil’ Lyss gained major industry credit when she was tapped by well-known Shady Records producer Rikanatti to come in as a producer on a few tracks for Ca$his’ second studio album The County Hound 2. How she landed that distinguished role as a producer on an album that features guest appearances from rap and hip-hop mainstays such as Crooked I, Obie Trice, Mistah F.A.B., Kuniva (D12), King Los, Boaz and more, is unique in itself– and it definitely proves that her skill is enough to catch the attention of the industry’s best.
She explains, “I am constantly looking for people to work with and that day I saw Rikanatti had tweeted that he was looking for producers to feature on Ca$his’ next album. I contacted him and sent him several examples of my work and he instantly responded with an offer. From the thousands who submitted music to him, I made the cut.”
And that was that. Lil’ Lyss landed her spot as a producer on the tracks “Imma Hustla” featuring Crooked I and Sullee J, and “Imma Hustla [W.C. Remix].” The hit single off The County Hound 2, “Imma Hustla” definitely thrust Lil’ Lyss’s skill as a music producer into the spotlight. Those in the rap game who didn’t know her name before definitely did after.
Undeniably one of the album’s standout tracks, “Imma Hustla [W.C. Remix],” which features Mistah F.A.B., Roccett, Crooked I and Goldie Gold, is hard, heavy and rhythmically energizing, which is due in no small part to the beats and overall musical backdrop that Lil’ Lyss masterfully created. It’s no secret that production is the foundation of any hip-hop song. The beats and tempo are the vehicle that allow the lyrics to flow, and Lil’ Lyss definitely nailed the production on both versions of “Imma Hustla.” It’s impossible not to nod your head to the song as it plays; and the way Lil’ Lyss creatively melds together the elements of gangster rap with energy amplifying cross fades and perfectly timed pauses throughout the track definitely deserves a nod as well. Her talent as a hip-hop producer is evident from the first few bars of the track, and the fact that she holds production credits on an album where four of the other 16 tracks were produced by 15-time Grammy Award winning rap icon Eminem doesn’t hurt her street cred either.
After producing two of the album’s most popular tracks, it’s not surprising that Rikanatti and Ca$his tapped Lil’ Lyss to come back to produce the track “A-Rod” on Ca$his’ 2015 album The County Hound 3.
The lead single off the album, “A-Rod” features New York heavy hitter Emilio Rojas. While it’s on the opposite end of the spectrum tempo-wise compared to the “Imma Hustla” tracks, with “A-Rod” boasting more of a low-key fluid vibe, the track is yet another hit under Lil’ Lyss’s belt as a producer.
“It was an honor and a challenge to work with Ca$his and Rikanatti, their talent is always very inspiring for me and their work ethic made me a better producer,” says Lil’ Lyss. “I created the music for the projects we did together, and Rikanatti adjusted the arrangements and mixed and mastered the whole album.”
While Lil’ Lyss’s reputation for producing epic beats has made her a highly sought after producer for rap and hip-hop artists, her skills are by no means limited to any single genre. Last year she released her first EDM/Trap track “Beast Race.” The dynamic, bass-heavy track generates an energizing, dancey vibe that will make you want to bob your head and get your booty shaking. “Beast Race” gained immediate traction with listeners through the internet with Crazy Pellas, Smash The Club, EDM Nation and other popular music outlets featuring the track on their website.
About what drives her to produce, Lil’ Lyss explains, “I love good music and I want to be a part of it. Especially now in the current state of music, I think the industry needs creativity more than ever. There are millions of people out there that crave the good music but all they get is mumble rap and 3 chord pop songs. I’m here for them!”
From producing hits for rap and hip-hop artists to creating tracks that strike a chord with EDM fans, Lil’ Lyss clearly has a stockpile of tricks up her sleeve, and the more music she produces the more we get to see just how dynamic a producer she really is. As long as we have creative female music producers like Lil’ Lyss who are driven to push the boundaries of the main stream, we can faithfully look forward to the direction rap and hip-hop music is going, while also opening the gates for more women to enter the field, because producing good music is not defined by gender, Lil’ Lyss is proof of that.
Up next for Lil’ Lyss is the upcoming album for The Marine Rapper, which she will be producing later this year. A 10-year US Marine Corps combat veteran, The Marine Rapper is an LA-based hip hop artist who’s created a recognizable name for himself by addressing military, civil and political issues through hip hop and rock music.
The Marine Rapper says, “I would like to work with Diana because she brings a unique production style that has not been introduced to modern music. I think with her worldly travels and various techniques she can bring something new to American music with a collaboration effort.”
Fans of the former nonconformist bands Rage Against the Machines and The Beastie Boys will be floored with delight when they hear Ze Gran Zeft’s modern amalgamation of hip-hop and rock if they haven’t already.
The band, which is comprised of singer, songwriter and guitarist Boots, Sideman on bass and Da Kid on drums, have created a unique discography of energetically charged tracks full of ill beats, radical guitar riffs, screams and raps that make it impossible not to do some good old head bangin’ when they blow through the speaker.
ZGZ started working with renowned producer and musical genius Charles “Kallaghan” Massabo shortly after the band’s formation in 2010, with Kallaghan helping to reel in the boys’ diverse interests into a common focus, not to mention his creation of powerful sound design on most of their tracks. Earlier this year the song ‘Just Like You,’ which was written by Kallaghan for the well known post-hardcore band Falling in Reverse, charted at No. 21 on the Billboard Top 200. Falling in Reverse’s former lead guitarist and backing vocalist, Jacky C Vincent, is featured on ZGZ’s single ‘Spaceman,’ which was released earlier this year and is one of the hits of the band’s forthcoming album “JOI,” which will drop in 2016. Another notable single off the upcoming album titled ‘Millennial Kids’ features non-other than Mopreme Shakur, Tupac’s older brother.
To find out more about the boys of ZGZ make sure to check out our interview below.
Boots: We come from Toulon, in the South East of France.
How would you describe your sound to listeners who haven’t heard your music yet?
Boots: The future.
What is your writing and recording process like?
Boots: We work as a “rock band” but with a “hip-hop” approach– the beat/instrumentals are made first, then I would write some hooks keeping the best one to build a powerful chorus. The inspiration/recording/writing process stays the same for us, we create a vibe, we just fool around until we reach the positive vibe to create and record a track. And basically that is what ZGZ is made of.
When did you guys start playing together?
Da Kid: In 2009 after I met BOOTS at a band contest, we started the basis of ZGZ. I introduced Sideman to the project, as we were working the same job at the time, and after the first rehearsal the band was created.
What was the vibe like between you guys back then compared to now—was it instant chemistry or were there things you had to work through in order to mesh well together?
Da Kid: Total chemistry, we have a lot of influences and that makes ZGZ’s richness, and it’s been like that from the beginning. It’s been 6 years since we started working together and it’s still the same craziness!
How did you end up working with producer Charles “Kallaghan” Massabo?
Da Kid: I contacted him in 2010 while he was still working at his studio in the French Riviera. He liked the demo I sent him and we started working together a couple of month after that.
Can you guys tell me about the work that went into the EPs “Watch The Crown,” and “Crunked Vizion” that you released in 2013?
Sideman: Both EPs were recorded at the same time, that’s the reason why the vibe is the same. That was actually the first album Kallaghan produced and mixed in Los Angeles.
We worked on a 10-track album back in 2012, and when he went to settle down in LA the album was ready. He mixed it at Mudrock’s Hobby Shop studio. That was our first international production between France and the U.S. We also had the opportunity to work with Arn Gyssels for the artwork on both EPs, after discovering his work for Bring Me The Horizon’s “Sempiternal.”
Can you talk a little about your inspiration for each EP?
Boots: I usually write lyrics about stuff that amuses me, like partying with friends, having a good time, and most of all: SEX. We like the 80s vibe before grunge came out with all their penis problems haha… But we are also huge fans of 90s music and that paradox is ZGZ’s main direction: the crossover. We’re just a bunch of kids that love to fool around and annoy elder people.
Did anyone else collaborate with you on those EPs?
Sideman: We recorded all the gang vocal parts with our friends from HELL RULES HEAVEN, who are from France and who work with Kallaghan too. We had a great time screaming like dumbasses into a microphone haha!
You also released the EP “The Debra Experience” in 2013 can you tell us a little bit about that project?
Da Kid: Hahaha! This has been the lamest and at the same time the most fantastic stuff we’ve done! We recorded Kallaghan’s ex-cat on that album. Then after the EP came out the cat went nuts, some issues with the royalties I think. In the end the cat kept the house and the PlayStation 3, and we kept the rights. Lame story.
It seems a bit lighter than the other two, more hip-hop and no heavy guitar riffs—can you tell us what inspired you guys to make that EP?
Boots: We recorded this EP with absolutely no instruments except for a bad quality folk guitar. Everything else is synths and beats. That has been our very first approach with hip-hop, and influenced the following work that made our first upcoming album. We wanted to try something new, and the final product is something cute, but boring. That’s why we named it “The Debra Experience” because Debra Morgan is cute but really boring.
How did you guys come to start working with Jacky C Vincent on the ‘Spaceman’ track you released earlier this year?
Boots: Kallaghan started working with Jacky after he met him by way of Ronnie Radke. He worked on his mixtape and then was involved in the production of Falling In Reverse’s third album “Just Like You.” Kallaghan and Jacky became friends, so when he introduced ZGZ to Jacky, he liked the concept and accepted to drop a crazy ass shred solo. He’s English you know, he’s able to feel real talent. That’s a European quality.
What was the experience like working with him?
Boots: This guy is a rock star, he’s talented, and his hair looks great. He has a purple guitar too. Does Van Halen have a purple guitar? I don’t think so…
You’re also about to release the single ‘Millennial Kids,’ of off your upcoming album- what inspired you guys to create this song and why do you think it will go over well with your audience?
Boots: The Sega Genesis, The Snes, Baywatch, and Dragon Ball Z. This song is our generation. It affects everyone that grew up between 1980 and the 00s, cause it’s dedicated to this period. Every kid dreamed about taking a nap on Pamela’s breast after pushing a giant Kameha. So if you don’t love it or even get it, you surely are from those who use “Pardon my French” before swearing, or use “kiddo”…
How did you guys get connected with Tupac’s brother Mopreme Shakur for the new single?
Sideman: It’s still Kallaghan’s shenanigans haha! Seriously this guy is a real big brother for us, we would never have thought we could write a song with a Shakur one day… We knew Mopreme from his old project with Tupac, “The Outlawz” and “Thug Life,” and Kallaghan had the opportunity to meet him. He was mixing the track by the time, and Mopreme accepted to write a 16 on it… We come from Toulon, and we have a song with one of the most important family members of the hip-hop history!
What’s the name of your upcoming full-length album and when can audiences expect it to be released?
Boots: The name of the album is “JOI” and it’s ready to be released in 2016.
What do you have planned for the future after the release of the album?
Boots: Our first objective is to go on a big tour, to introduce people to the next iconic band of the generation. We are also working on our next album and have the same urge to work with a lot of different artists. This is something we share within Kallaghan Records crew, the union. As we use to say in French “L’union fait la force” (United we stand)…
What tours have you been on so far?
Boots: We had the opportunity to tour in Eastern Europe back in spring 2013 with the Romanian band Dirty Shirt. We love these guys and we had the greatest time ever over there. We also toured in France since the band was created, and played with a couple of local bands.
What has been the most memorable and/or craziest thing that has happened to you guys on tour so far?
Boots: Having a proper PA and something to drink. Honestly, I think the 100% filled rider doesn’t exist. That’s why Van Halen asked for special M&M’s; when you crash at the gig, go check the PA, especially when you need bass, and go check if you have water and something to eat. If you got everything, then yeah, you’ll have a memorable gig, and that’s the craziest thing that can happen to you. And we are in the 21st century.
What was the first show you played together?
Da Kid: The very first show we played together was in 2010 near Toulon, for a band contest organized by a local music store by way of a local festival. We won, and then played on the main stage that night.
What was it like being on stage together for the first time?
Boots: Have you ever eaten a warm croissant during a trip to France? This is kind of new for you but then you feel the pleasure and feel instantly that this is the right thing to do at this exact moment.
What other shows have you guys played aside from the tours you been on together?
Boots: We’ve only played local shows. If you don’t already know about France’s Southeast scene, then let me tell you there’s nothing. France in general, has never been a good spot for composition and live shows; people here are more interested in nightclubs or bars. So if you’re not playing an EDM mix you don’t have 99 choices to play in proper places, and most of all, earn enough money to live from it.
Why do you guys love playing music?
Boots: Cause we all failed our studies, so music remained the easiest way to get girls and money. And that’s one of the only jobs where people love to hear you complain about how life isn’t easy. And sometimes the melody affects our feelings.
Can you describe the feeling you get when you’re on stage?
Da Kid: I feel surrounded by tons of stuffs I can hit the hardest I want, unless the PA sucks, but most of the time that’s the better place to be. Regarding the two others and the way they jump everywhere, I think they enjoy it a lot too.
What bands were you playing in before you got together?
Sideman: We played in small bands, like the one you got into in college after discovering MTV. All our projects were really rock/metal sounding, cause we’ve all grown up with Korn/Tool/Nirvana/etc. We’ll never bash on our first projects cause first, we experienced what is like to be ridiculous and learned to accept it. And then, we created ZGZ after understanding what we really wanted to do in music. It’s been a successful practice.
If you weren’t musicians, what other job do you think you’d have?
Boots: Da kid could work in the fashion industry, he doesn’t particularly have good tastes, but he’d love to be surrounded by people like Lagerfeld, Jacobs or Gautier. Regarding Sideman, he’s really good with computers and technology, so I think he would succeed in creating a webcam show platform for people like Lagerfeld, Jacobs and Gautier and Da Kid. And me, I think I’d really like to become a famous bar tender in a famous 90’s style house club from Chicago or from Castro in SF to spend the night with all those aforementioned fellas.
Can you tell me briefly how each one of you got into music?
Sideman: I decided to play bass in a metal band after discovering ‘Blind’ at the end of Street Fighters II The Movie
Boots: I was raised on the Woodstock scene, The Police and David Bowie. Things follow the logical way.
Da Kid: I was hitting my friends at Kindergarten, my parents decided to buy me a plastic drum kit so I could hit something else.
Can you talk about some of the musicians and bands that have influenced you over the years and why they’ve been important in your growth in musicians?
Boots: Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie, cause they are related to my father who’s a big fan. They also represent the new wave of their own genre; they brought a revolutionary sound and are icons for modern music. Then Dimebag Darell, who is to me the greatest musician of all times. The Notorious BIG, 2Pac and Kendrick Lamar, for all that they represent for music, and their writing skills.
Sideman: I grew up listening to David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Jamiroquai. They heavily influenced my playing style at first. Currently, the musicians that influenced me the most are Adam Nolly Getgood (Periphery), Dick Lövgren (Meshuggah) and Jean-Michel Labadie (Gojira). Their sound and approach to bass helped me make a lot of crucial choices choosing my bass brands, effects, and live configuration.
Da Kid: Slipknot. The intention, their ideas (at least on the 2 first albums) were limitless. But I grew up with many different bands and artists like Paco Sery who’s my favorite, Maceo Parker and Prince, who changed the conception of beat making. The most inspiring current drummer to me is Mark Guiliana.
Thanks ZGZ for the rad interview! If you want to find out more about them and what they’re up to, make sure to stop by their social media pages: